Corbin Burnes is not well known nationally, but the hard-throwing right-hander has developed into a National League Cy Young candidate for the Milwaukee Brewers. He's one of three that they have, actually, joining Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta to form a three-headed monster that's going to be a nightmare for opponents in October.
The Giants had faced Burnes before Friday night, but they had not seen this version, the one mixing a mid-90s cutter with a 97 mph fastball and nasty breaking pitches. Burnes was his usual dominant self -- and young Logan Webb was just about every bit his equal.
That was the good news in the first matchup of the year with a sneaky Brewers team.
Webb set the Giants up perfectly, allowing the back end of their bullpen to come in late and Gabe Kapler to play his matchups with a seven-man bench. But they couldn't capitalize. That was the bad news.
A pitcher's duel ended in the 10th when Sacramento's Rowdy Tellez lined a double the opposite way with a free baserunner on second base. The 2-1 game was a potential playoff preview, and Webb, the youngest member of the Giants rotation, continued to look like he'll be a big part of any October series.
Webb has been the best Giants starter in recent weeks and he took another step Friday, allowing three hits and striking out nine in six innings, just about matching Burnes' seven strong. Both starters gave up just a solo homer.
"I thought Webb went toe-to-toe with Burnes," Kapler said. "Burnes has some nasty stuff and Webb kind of matched him all the way through the game with his intensity and with his stuff. I thought he mixed his pitches well, I thought he was in the zone most of the time, I thought he challenged their hitters and overall I thought did a really nice job."
Webb has been taking those steps for months, before and after an IL stint, turning into a dependable weapon for Kapler. The Giants had won eight straight games started by Webb, and they seemed set up well in this one.
The Giants entered the game with seven position players on their bench to just four for the Brewers, and Webb's ability to go deep allowed Kapler to use Dominic Leone, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee to get the game to extras. That put a runner on second for the deep bench, and with a lefty on the mound, Kapler sent up three straight right-handed pinch hitters. Austin Slater, Darin Ruf and Donovan Solano couldn't get the run across.
"I felt really good about what we had there in the 10th inning," Kapler said. "I'll bet on that group over and over, particularly against a left-handed pitcher."
He would do the same with Jarlin Garcia, who had allowed just two hits in his previous 44 matchups with lefties. But Tellez has been scorching hot, and he lined a ball inside the third base line to end a good game.
The night was a disappointment, but it was hard to find much fault in a hard-fought loss to a team running away with the NL Central. Webb did have a regret, though.
"I think I had the stuff today to go seven or eight," he said. "It's frustrating to me not to be able to go seven or eight and get these guys even more innings, but it's always a priority and that's something that me and Kap and other guys have talked about. That's kind of the last thing to get to, is the seven and eight (inning) outings."
That's the next step for the 24-year-old, who has taken a few of them already this season. Since coming off the IL, Webb has a 2.10 ERA in six appearances. His latest bit of development is perfectly timed, as Kapler has had to work around some short starts from his top three in the rotation. Kapler was hard on Webb early in the year because he knows what the right-hander is capable of, but he is starting to live up to that potential.
"I think the trust is building with Logan because he has essentially done everything that's been asked of him," Kapler said. "He's filled up the zone more, he's been more aggressive with all of his offerings, and I think the more of this we see the more confident we're going to be as we get into the later innings. He got us deep into the game, we had our three best relievers on the mound in the seventh, eighth and ninth, and one of our leverage weapons on the mound in the 10th.
"It's what you ask for from your starting pitcher: Give us a chance to win the game with our relievers late, keep our bats in it for as long as possible, and Logan has been doing all of those things."